March 2, 2024

In his farewell address after he turned over the reins of the government to incoming President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. on June 30, 2022, former President Rodrigo Duterte thanked all those who supported his administration and promised that after his term of office, he will live a strictly private life and make sure that his name will be out of the political limelight. For months, he was true to his promise.
Save for a prog-ram at SMNI where he regularly appears as a guest in a talk show with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, Duterte was scarce when it came to issues that involved the Philippines. That is…until now.
The name of the former president is circulating once more in the minds of the Filipino people. No thanks to the controversies that he is plunged into. Unknowingly and unwittingly, his name is being pulled by some sort of a mystery into the carnage that the country is involved in. There are three controversies to which he is prominently mentioned.
First is the problem at the West Philippine Sea. It is that area where China asserts a dominant claim over that of the Philippines’ despite an international arbitral court decision that held the superiority of the latter’s maritime sovereignty over the same.
Experts and analysts are of the opinion that Duterte sold out our boundary dispute with China during his term of office. His tolerance and passivity emboldened the Chinese Navy to lay claim over the seas at the WPS where the country is supposed to have an exclusive economic zone. His foreign policy pivoting in favor of China was taken as one that exposed the weakness of our claim.
To a certain extent, Duterte was correct in his assessment that we cannot afford to go to war against China given the disparity of our manpower and military capability. Yet, there should have been other diplomatic remedies that were availed of to better insist on the Philippines’ claim over the disputed area. Had this been done, according to experts, Philippine Navy ships and other fishing vessels need not bear the brunt of water cannons and deliberate collisions perpetuated by the Chinese Navy and its para-military arm.
Second is the alleged coup d’etat being hatched by retired military generals. According to reports, there are disgruntled members of the military, specifically retired generals who are planning to stage a take-over because of their perception that the current administration is not doing well enough to foist the country from its present state. And the name of Duterte played a prominent role in this alleged destabilization plot. It brought to the fore the collateral comments which is the trademark of Duterte.
Personally, I do not believe Duterte is involved in any coup plot. Foremost, his Vice President daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is part and parcel of the current administration. She campaigned and won on the same platform as Marcos. To say that the President is inept or inefficient is also to say that Sara is. And I do not think that the former president will be that foolish to put a dent on the character of his own blood. It is not in his personality to do it.
Another is that Duterte is too good to think of ways and means to regain power. He had his time and he did excellent during his term. He is simply not that type of person who is hungry for recognition. Remember, even his presidency was not his personal choice but was forced upon him.
Third is the freedom that was recently granted to former Senator Leila de Lima. On Monday last week, the Court granted bail to de Lima and allowed her to gain her provisional liberty pending the resolution of her last case. This, according to international human rights advocates, just shows to prove de Lima is a victim of political persecution. Where does Rodrigo Duterte factor into this?
De Lima is the number one critic of Duterte even before he was elected president. She was the forerunner against Duterte’s war on drugs. She repeatedly investigated the strongman regarding the alleged extra-judicial killings in the country. Due to this, the name Rodrigo Duterte cannot be extricated from the name Leila de Lima. The two are anti-thesis to each other. The yin and yang, night and day, good and evil (depending on which side you are on).
At any rate, Duterte is one of the most beloved presidents the Philippines ever had. For him to be out of the spotlight that long is contrary to his nature. He is too good to be forgotten. Hence, good or bad, it is a welcome relief to know that he is still involved in governance.